Common Hindu customs and Rituals:
While visiting the temple you may witness several customs and rituals being performed. Below is an attempt to provide the underlying principle or reasoning for a few of the most common customs.
1. Why are there so many gods in hinduism?
The many gods in the hindu religion represent the symbolism of the hindu pantheon. Hindus worship the nameless and formless supreme reality by various names and forms. Each god or deity is a particular manifestation of the one supreme reality. The lord lives in each and every living being making them an individualized manifestation of God.
2. Why do gods have four arms?
The four arms of the gods represent the four directions and signify the omnipresent and omnipotent nature of the Gods.
3. Why do we do pradakshina (circumambulate)?
We cannot draw a circle without a center. The lord is the center, source and essence of our lives. Recognizing him as the focal point in our lives, we go through our daily chores. Every point on the circumference of a circle is equal distant from the center. This means that wherever we may be, we are equally close to the lord. His grace flows towards us unequivocally.
4. What does the ‘Bottu” (Dot) mean?
The tilak or bottu is a religious mark worn on the forehead between the eyebrows, which is the seat of memory and thinking. The bottu is applied with a prayer to remember the lord through all activities of the day. The mark reminds us of our resolve to remember god in all our activities and protects us from inappropriate tendencies and negative thoughts.
5. Why only the priests are allowed to touch god?
This is primarily to maintain purity and sanctity of the deities. The temple is a place of community service with a large number of people visiting the deities daily. The cleanliness and purity of the deities is ensured by allowing only the priests to touch the deities and perform the prescribed ceremonies according to vedic ideals.
6. Why do we light oil lamps in front of the gods?
Light symbolizes knowledge, and darkness, ignorance. Knowledge removes ignorance just as light removes darkness. The Lord is the "Knowledge Principle" (Chaitanya) who is the source, the enlivener and the illuminator of all knowledge. Light is worshiped as the lord himself.Hence we light the lamp to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms of wealth.
Theertham: The devotees are offered the sacred water that has been blessed by The lord.Tradition dictates that it is received in a cupped right hand and sipped with reverence.
Shatari: (Shatagopam): The replica of the feet of the lord is touched gently on the top of the devotee’s head to convey the total surrender in devotion to the Lord.
Prasadam: Fruit and flowers or nuts blessed by the lord are offered to the devotees after prayers and aarthi.
Abhishekam: At auspicious times of the week or month, each deity is treated to a special bathing ceremony prescribed in the Vedas to replenish the eternal glory and brilliance to please the devotees.
Saashtanga Namaskaram: Some devotees prostrate in front of the sannidhis in a display of total surrender to the lord by touching eight essential parts of the body to the ground.
Namasthe: The traditional greeting of hindus is practiced widely by many cultures. Respectfully folding of arms with the palms of both hands touching each other gently in front of a smiling face depicts a warm feeling of welcome from the depths of the soul. The practice also seems to impart hygienic forethought in lieu of physical contact like a hand shake.